Ok, let me back up a bit. Let’s start at the beginning. What exactly is online counseling?
Online counseling, also known as E-therapy or distance counseling, is a way to experience therapy that doesn’t require sitting in someone else’s office. Distance counseling occurs over the phone or over the internet using a computer and services such as e-mail, chat, or video conference. Communication may take place in either real-time or over a period of time.
So why would you use online therapy?
After all, there are many alternatives to paying someone else for help. You could:
- ‣ talk to a friend or family member
- ‣ find a support group with other individuals who are experiencing the same problems
- ‣ exercise
- ‣ write in a journal
- ‣ read self-help books
- ‣ practice silent meditation
Another option is to not do anything; however, this option does not allow you to be proactive in moving forward in trying to solve the current problem. And here is the first reason to consider E-therapy.
1. You have a problem that needs to be solved.
The problem could be anything. You are at the store and forgot your grocery list (okay – I can’t help with this!). Maybe you are feeling out of sorts and the feeling has hung on longer than you would like to see. Maybe you are depressed and can’t get out of bed. What if you are anxious and are having difficulty breathing when you leave the house? Perhaps you are wondering if you drink too much and have decided you would like to cut back.
Just as with traditional therapy, online therapy is designed to help you as a client:
- ‣ develop insight into your feelings
- ‣ experience personal growth
- ‣ experience changes in your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
The difference between traditional therapy and e-therapy is the way the therapist and the client meet and communicate, not the ultimate outcome of the process. Which leads us to reason number two to consider online therapy.
2. You don’t have a lot of time on your hands.
Let’s face it. Convenience comes into play when it comes to taking care of ourselves. If the schedule is tight or something else comes up, the easiest thing to let go of first is the self care; in this case the therapy. But what if you could schedule is such a way that doesn’t require an additional hour drive? What if you could schedule it in the morning during your child’s nap? What if you could schedule it in the evening after work? What if you could schedule it while you were on a business trip? And as in traditional therapy, the client sets the pace for the therapy process. If you are working via email or text, ‘letters” may be sent at any time of the day or night (although the response may not come immediately). As a client you may write as often as you like, and it allows the sharing of thoughts at any time.
With distance counseling, you do not have to leave the privacy of your home and you do not need to live or be in a particular geographic location to access a therapist. If you are using text or email, it has a built-in time delay. The delay allows both you and the therapist time for reflection and the ability to thoughtfully reply. You can be assured of a timely response and everyone is able to avoid leaving telephone messages and the ongoing game of telephone tag. So following that thought, reason number three to consider E-therapy.
3. You don’t feel like traditional therapy will work for you.
Let’s say you have trouble sharing your thoughts and feelings. Some people are more comfortable with using text or email therapy because it allows an avoidance of face-to-face contact. For some, sitting in their own space while still seeing the therapist makes for a more comfortable discussion. For others, distance counseling in some form allows them to open up easier and more quickly.
Perhaps you are concerned about confidentiality. Online therapy would prevents you from being seen in or in the vicinity of a therapist’s office. For some people that is a major concern.
What if you have a reason that you can’t go to a therapist’s office? If you are homebound or do not have a therapist in your vicinity online counseling would be a good option for you. If you are socially phobic, hearing impaired, or have another types of disability or chronic illness you may benefit from using a phone or a computer to communicate rather than attempting to do it in person.
Distance counseling has been shown to be an effective alternative to in person therapy. The same ability to discuss concerns, learn new skills, and alleviate distress are available to you regardless of which method of counseling you choose. Really, it is all about the fact that it is time to solve the problem isn’t it?